by Karen Katchur

published August 4, 2015 by Thomas Dunne Books (St. Martin's Press)


A haunting story about the destructive power of secrets, this accomplished and gripping suspenseful women's fiction debut is perfect for fans of Lisa Scottoline and Heather Gudenkauf

Jo has been hiding the truth about her role in her high school boyfriend’s drowning for sixteen years. Every summer, she drops her children off with her mother at the lakeside community where she spent summers growing up, but cannot bear to stay herself; everything about the lake reminds her of the guilt she feels. For her daughter Caroline, however, the lake is a precious world apart; its familiarity and sameness comforts her every year despite the changes in her life outside its bounds. At twelve years old and caught between childhood and adolescence, she longs to win her mother’s love and doesn’t understand why Jo keeps running away.

Then seven-year-old Sara Starr goes missing from the community beach. Rescue workers fail to uncover any sign of her—but instead dredge up the bones Jo hoped would never be discovered, shattering the quiet lakeside community’s tranquility. Caroline was one of the last people to see Sara alive on the beach, and feels responsible for her disappearance. She takes it upon herself to figure out what happened to the little girl. As Caroline searches for Sara, she uncovers the secrets her mother has been hiding, unraveling the very foundation of everything she knows about herself and her family. The Secrets of Lake Road by Karen Katchur is a riveting novel that is impossible to put down and hard to forget.

Karen Katchur's debut novel, The Secrets of Lake Road, isn't something I would've picked up at a bookstore. From the opening sentence, however, the novel intrigued me, buried deep into me, hung with me until the second I finished it.

I must commend Katchur for her wonderful characterization; for a novel like this with as many characters as there are, it's easy to get them confused in your head, but Katchur painted them all differently to where that confusion never happened for me. Along with a set of unique characters is a gripping mystery, a group of lingering secrets from the past, and a thrilling reading experience.

On the other hand, I wasn't as enamored of Katchur's writing. It lacked any and all sense of style, read like an unenthused grocery list. A novel of this sort would've been propelled beyond proportion with a little more flair to its prose, but it delivered in so many other areas that it feels silly for me to pick on it too much.

Overall, Katchur's debut is a tense exploration of a lake and the devastating secrets it may hold, intertwined with a thrilling mystery. I'll be keeping my eye on Katchur in the future.

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